The best places to visit in mainland Greece

The best places to visit in mainland Greece

Backpacking Greece: A travel guide to the best things to do on mainland Greece for the independent budget travellerThis post is about the best places to visit in mainland Greece

I remember whole days spent at the beach, building sand castles and looking for shells. Every evening we went out for dinner, my body still feeling warm from the sun. I have fond childhood memories of my summer holidays spent in Greece.

It is one of my favourite countries in Europe and one that I will never get tired of visiting. Most tourists visiting Greece will visit one of the famous islands, but mainland Greece has just as much to offer for your holidays. This post will show you the best places to visit in mainland Greece.

The best places to visit in mainland Greece

1. The monasteries in Meteora

Meteora is among the most beautiful places to visit in mainland Greece. I visited Greece several times and it is Meteora that left its most impressive memories. Meteora is famous for having one of the most important Eastern orthodox monasteries in the world.

The name “Meteora” can be translated as “in the heavens above”, because of its unique setting. They are all built on top of rock pinnacles that dot the landscape. In fact, the area is full of volcanic rock formations that are weathered by water and wind over millions of years.

What I love most about Meteora is the combination of this beautiful setting and the possibility to look inside the monasteries to get an idea of how the monks used to live. The monasteries are now easy to reach by roads or stairs to allow tourists of all ages to visit.

This wasn’t always the case tough and most of them used to be quite isolated, built by monks choosing to live a solitary lifestyle. The website visit Meteora gives you the best information on what to see and do and how to get there.

How to get there: You can take a train from Athens to the town of Kalampaka (5 hours). Click here for more information how to get from Athens to Meteora.

Meteora monasteries. One of the best places to visit in mainland Greece

2. The Oracle of Delphi

It’s been a long time ago that I visited Delphi, but I still remember the sight of the ruins. It was a clear day and we could see the Gulf of Corinth in the far distance. Delphi was revered throughout the Greek world to be the center of the universe and the oracle of the god Apollo.

The location is stunning and it used to be a hard long trek to get there. Pilgrims made their way up to seek guidance from the holy woman Pythia. Pythia was believed to reside in the oracle and speak on behalf of the gods. Her cryptic visions about the future attracted thousands of visitors. Now it is an easy bus ride from Athens, but Pythia remains silent.

How to get to Delphi: From Athens it is an easy 3 hour bus journey to Delphi.

Delphi oracle. One of the best places to visit in mainland Greece

3. Athens

I love history and my taste for everything old was well catered to in Athens. It is the birthplace of western civilization and one of the oldest cities in Europe. The famous Acropolis was built-in the 5th century BC on a rocky outcrop above the city. It has been the center of Greece ever since.

Throughout the years the Greeks, the Romans and the Ottomans all left behind their influences. Old ruins are everywhere. Athens is now the capital of Greece, but it’s easy to imagine yourself a princess in Roman times when you visit the ancient Agora or the Roman Forum. Furthermore the neighborhoods of Plaka, Monastiraki and Thissio are full with nice restaurants.

For more information check out this excellent post about the best museums in Athens and how to spend one day in Athens.

Athens. One of the best places to visit in mainland Greece

4. Archeological sites in the Peloponnese

The Peloponnese was on the top of my list, because I wanted to see all the places I read about in my history books at school. Places such as the ancient Greek theatre in Epidaurus,  the location of the first olympic games in Olympia, the palace of Mycenae and the ruins of Sparta.

I volunteered in a Greek monastery near Athens and I was able to arrange a weekend tour. In a small van we crossed the bridge over the Gulf of Corinth that connects the Peloponnese peninsula with the mainland. It took us a full day to visit Epidaurus, Mycene and the Corinth canal.

Peloponnese Greece

5. The mountains around Chrani, Peloponnese

In 2006 I spent another week in the Pelopennese in the small town of Chrani. Even tough I love the sea, I am actually not a person who enjoys spending day after day at the beach. The first days feel wonderful, but by the third day I get restless. The good thing about the Peloponnese is that there is enough to explore.

After two days we rented a car and drove through the mountains. We passed some old farmers on their tractors with piles of fresh vegetables in the back and drove by beautiful villages. Sometimes we stopped to watch the views, trying to capture it on our pictures, even tough we knew we couldn’t.

Chrani Peloponnese Greece

6. Blue waters in Koroni, Peloponnese

The Peloponnese is a peninsula and has it’s own share of beaches with blue waters and sea port towns. One of such towns is Koroni with a Venetian fortress and excellent restaurants serving fresh seafood.

It’s difficult to recommend one seaport town over the other as they all have their own charm and I think none of them will disappoint you. Koroni happened to be on our route and we had grilled fish while looking at the blue waters of the sea. Other nice towns with a port are Nafplio, Monemvasia, Kiladia and Gythio.

Koroni Peloponnese Greece

7. Epirus and Parga 

Epirus is a mountainous region close to the border with Albania. The densely forested Pindos mountains are still the home of bears and wolves. The Vikos gorge is the deepest gorge in the world.

In addition, Parga has some crystal clear blue waters and is a charming town with its pastel coloured houses. I stayed in Parga for a week and it’s a wonderful place to relax at the beach and go hiking in the surrounding hills. Not convinced yet that Epirus is one of the best places to visit in mainland Greece, read more about Epirus in this article.

Parga. One of the best places to visit in mainland Greece

8. Quiet beaches in Nea Makri

If you are in Athens and you are looking for a secluded quiet beach not too far away, you could head to Nea Makri. I spent three weeks in Nea Makri as part of a volunteer project at the Pammacaristos Children’s Foundation with IBO-Nederland. There is honestly not too much to see in Nea Makri, but therefore there are very few tourists and the beach is nice.

Nea Makri beach in Greece

What and where to eat in mainland Greece

Greek food is delicious and there is absolutely no shortage of restaurants throughout Greece. For a cheap lunch or dinner you can eat a pita gyros. A flat bread with meat, tzatziki and french fries.

If you go out for dinner you can never go wrong with the fresh Greek salads and a Souvlaki. Other traditional Greek recipies to try are Mousaka or Stifado.

How to get around in Mainland Greece

It is easy to travel by bus throughout mainland Greece and there are good bus connections between Athens and the towns in the Pelopenesse.

From Thessaloniki it is also possible to travel onwards to Istanbul in Turkey.

Backpacking Greece: A travel guide to the best things to do on mainland Greece for the independent budget traveller
There are 0 comments for this article
  1. Sophie Nadeau at 12:21 pm

    I can’t believe I’ve STILL not been to Greece! As if I didn’t need even more reasons to visit (I study Ancient Greek at university), this list has just provided me with some! Those monasteries are just breathtaking!

  2. Zo Around The World at 12:28 pm

    Great post, you demonstrate well that there is FAR more to Greece than the islands and party destinations 🙂 i’ll definitely be checking out some of these recommendations when I head back one day!

  3. yogawinetravel at 5:31 pm

    I wish I could have seen every single one of these spots! We managed to visit Athens, Olympia, Meteora and Delphi in about 7 days but will definitely add your other recommendations to our list for the next trip!

  4. Capturing Joy with Kristen Duke at 3:54 am

    I really hope to make it to Greece someday! This was a great post and I definitely will have to visit these places when I make it there.

  5. Melissa – Parenthood and Passports at 3:56 am

    Mainland Greece looks mesmerizing. If there is one European country that I haven’t been to but want to visit, it is Greece. I love history as well, and that monastery up on the cliff looks incredible!

  6. Anna Hammerschmidt at 4:07 am

    Now I want to visit Greece! I love that you showcased some lesser known destinations! I’ve never heard of Meteora before but after seeing your pictures, I need to go! The monestaries look amazing!

  7. valerie hansen at 4:50 am

    wow this is so cool..that town of Parga is beckoning me..Oh my its so cute and quaint..this was so fun to learn of off the beaten path places there!

  8. Danielle Bricker at 5:54 am

    I spent a long time in Athens before heading to Santorini last fall but didn’t explore more of the mainland. I’ve had sites like Meteora, Olympia, and Delphi on my list before, but this definitely added some ideas to my list, like Parga.

  9. at 6:02 am

    Seriously stunning. I love the monasteries on the rocks and then that clear water. I love that you provided more than what I normally read about. This seemed a lot more cultural and immersing yourself. Great article.

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